52 Ancestors #2 – Favorite Photo, Marion Cooke

This week’s writing prompt is “Favorite Photo” and I have so many that I love!

But this one is my current favorite: my grandmother Marion “Mimi” Stokes Cooke, taken about 1924 in Brooklyn.

Marion (2)

I love my grandmother’s direct gaze in this portrait. She faced life head-on with her head held high, confident and clear-headed.  Life wasn’t always easy for her but you can see the strength in her eyes.

She was the eldest child and adored daughter of Robert Thomas Cooke and Jane Morrison. She was born in 1902 and lived in Brooklyn and Queens with her parents and younger brother Leighton until she married my grandfather in March 1927 and moved to Newark, New Jersey. She died of colon cancer in 1960 at age 58 when I was five years old.

Mimi was the first member of our family to go to college, graduating in 1920 with a diploma in Trade Dressmaking from the Pratt Institute School of Domestic Arts and Sciences. She made dresses, coats, even bathing suits, for herself and her daughters, and smocked baby clothes for me.  The wedding dress she created for my mom and her sister was beautifully and intricately made of satin and lace.

When she married in 1927, she moved into my grandfather’s childhood home, complete with a mother-in-law who refused to allow Mimi to cook meals until World War II rationing became too hard for her to deal with. Mimi developed a treasure trove of dessert recipes for my grandfather’s sweet tooth and I’m fortunate to have her recipe box, though some would be hard to make now since directions are sketchy.

My grandmother was all about family. She had a large complement of Cooke cousins and during the Depression, her mother and grandmother moved from Brooklyn into a house a few doors down the street so she was able to see them often.  She was playful with a sweet smile, and enjoyed vacations at their beach home in Manasquan. We lived an hour away when I was a child and she and my mom were able to see each other often. She died too young.

Although I have many pictures of my grandmother, this one is my favorite. I love her eyes, her soft but not quite perfect hair, the big flower on the dress that I imagine she made herself. She looks like someone who knows herself and is looking straight ahead at life.